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Five Ideas for Young Associates to Get Ahead

Updated: Mar 14

Five Ideas for Young Associates to Get Ahead

By Liza Vasquez CMC ICF and Jeffrey F. Silber MBA CMC

Certified Master Business and Life Coaches

In almost every country in the world except the USA, May 1stis Labor Day. We wish you a very happy Labor Day if you are celebrating today. In the USA, Labor Day will be celebrated on Monday, September 3rd.  So, Americans, you will just have to hold on until then for your day off.

This month we will discuss what younger associates can do to advance their careers.  If you are too senior to implement these ideas, please pass them along to the younger lawyers in your firm.

Idea One: Rainmaking – Adjust Your Self-Image

One of the most common limiting beliefs we hear from our associate-clients is that “I am too young to bring clients to the firm.” This foolish idea will hold you back from accomplishing what you want and, in fact, will hold you back from accomplishing what you can do.

Being young in today’s world is an asset for rainmaking.

We live in San Francisco, and nearly every day we see an interview on the television evening news with some technology entrepreneur between the ages of 20 and 35 who just sold her or his start-up company to Google, Microsoft, Facebook and so on, for billions of dollars.

The point is that the modern business world is dominated by high-technology.  And this world is not composed of old guard senior executives who are the contemporaries of the senior partners of your law firm. 

On the contrary, these entrepreneurs are your contemporaries.

And in other cases, control of family-owned businesses has passed to the next generation of the family. In many family-owned companies, the new CEO’s do not want the lawyer who has been advising their parents for so many years. They want their friends, lawyers they feel who understand them.

Go hunting for clients where your youth is an advantage. Find organizations of young entrepreneurs and start-up companies.   There are many shared office space locations nowadays such as WeWork or other business incubator locations. 

These are the places where you will be well-received. This is where you can catch some young clients that will grow into major companies.  Catch them now and they will be your loyal clients for a lifetime.

Idea Two: Get Started Working on Your Personal Brand

Your reputation is what people are saying about you. Generally, you have a reputation only among the people who know you, and you have no control over what they are saying about you. “Mary is an excellent lawyer, but she is slow at returning phone calls.”  Or, “I have used John as my lawyer on a few transactions and he knows his stuff, but it is like pulling teeth to get him to deliver the documents.” 

These are examples of a lawyer’s reputation.   On the other hand, your personal brand is the message you want people to hear about you and you take control over who is saying it.

The more specialized you are, the more you will be sought out for your expertise.  Pick an area of law or a specific industry that you want to focus on. Take additional courses in that area, learn as much as you can about the narrow subject.

Then start writing articles about it. Start making speeches at relevant organizations.  Push this message out in Social Media.  Let the world know you are an expert in this area.  Keep it up, be consistent, give it time, and so you will have a personal brand and clients will come flocking to you.

Idea Three – Stand Out from the Other Associates by Educating the Partners

The partners of your law firm may be using WhatsApp, Google, Text Messages, WeChat or using e-mail and know how to search the web, however, we have not the slightest doubt that they do not have the same level or knowledge and familiarity with internet as do teenagers. Also, the partners are probably just as addicted to their smartphones as are millennials.

As is often the case, partners have learned to navigate their way through the technology they need, and they may be using some of their favorite apps on their phones.  However, there we have seen a problem.  Technology changes 100% every 18 months and the number of Apps grows exponentially every month. This leaves the partners functioning effectively but in the technology world of several years ago.

Cutting edge knowledge of these rapidly-changing technologies resides with teenagers who have grown up in this world.   Because your law firm is highly unlikely to have any fourteen-year-olds on the staff, you, as a young associate, have a great opportunity to impress the partners. Offer to head an Internet/Smartphone committee with the intention of making periodic presentations to the partners about current developments in Internet and in the latest apps available for their mobile phones.

You don’t have to do it alone. Recruit the interns (Pasantes and Estagiários) to do the legwork and research for you.

Idea Four – Offer Your Opinion

All geniuses are young. They burst onto the scene and see the world as no one else has seen it before. No one becomes a genius in later life. Of course, one becomes more experienced as time passes and hopefully wiser.  But real geniuses are all young. 

Sure, you are at the stage of your career where you still have a great deal to learn. And, we don’t know if you are a genius or not, but you can certainly offer creative and innovative ideas and suggestions.  Feel free to offer your opinion if you think you see a better solution or a better approach to a specific matter.

You may come up with a new usable approach. Or, the partners will explain to you why suggestion will not work. In this case, look at this as a learning experienced and what you have gained. And in both cases, the partners will see you as someone who is always  goes beyond merely doing the work assigned.. That is a trait they look for in future partners.

Idea Five – Show Your Resourcefulness – Differentiate Yourself

The key is to be vigilant for opportunities to be proactive.

Always go the extra mile to show the partners your energy, intelligence and resourcefulness. Let us use a simplistic example.  If you are asked to find out the price of apples, don’t come back and say: “On average, apples are 75¢ a pound.” That would be doing the minimum that was expected of you.

A proactive answer would be: “Red Delicious apples are 80¢ a pound, Golden Delicious apples are 85¢ a pound. Granny Smith apples are 69¢. Macintosh apples are 79¢ a pound.  Dried apple slices are $1.25 a pound. And, fresh-squeezed apple juice is $2.99 a liter.”  

That is a proactive answer to “How much do apples cost?”

Always do the maximum possible not the minimum when meeting every assignment


These five ideas are intended to get you thinking.  We are sure you can think of a additonal ways to distinguish yourself and to begin getting your name out into the world of potential clients. Keep in mind, if you act like everyone else, you will never get ahead of the crowd. Good luck – you are on your way.

© Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorized distribution or reproduction of this material in print or in any electronic form is strictly prohibited. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the prior written consent of Silber, Vasquez & Associates.

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